The Uttar Pradesh Government on Tuesday approved the draft "UP Prevention of Slaughter (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020," for strengthening the cow slaughter laws in the state.
The ordinance approved in a cabinet meeting led by CM Yogi Adityanath, has enhanced the punishment prescribed under the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, with an aim to deter slaughter of cows in the state.
Section 3 of the principal Acts prohibits cow slaughter, or its attempt or abetment, and Section 5 of the Act prohibits sale or transport of beef. Violation of these provisions is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.
Through this Ordinance, the government has enhanced the maximum punishment for both the offences with rigorous imprisonment of a minimum term of 3 years and which may extend up to 10 years, and fine of minimum Rs. 3 lakh and maximum Rs. 5 lakh. In case of repeated offenders, the punishment prescribed above will stand doubled.
It further states that photographs and names of persons accused of sale or transport of beef will be published in the areas near their residence.
"The name and photo of a person accused for violation of Section 5 will be published at any such important place in the locality where the accused normally resides or at such public place where he hides himself from the law enforcement," the press release issued by the Government states.
This move is comparable to the controversial move of the UP Government to put up banners containing photographs and details of persons accused of violence during anti-CAA protests. The same was declared to be "highly unjust" and illegal by the Allahabad High Court, which had ordered the state to take down all the banners within a day.
The Court had said that putting up banners containing details of persons who are merely accused of an offence, and fugitives, is "highly unjust" and an absolute "encroachment" on personal liberty.
"In entirety, we are having no doubt that the action of the State which is subject matter of this public interest litigation is nothing but an unwarranted interference in privacy of people. The same hence, is in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India," the Court had said.
Challenging the HC order, the Up Government approached the Supreme Court. The SC declined to stay the HC direction and referred the matter to larger bench.
Section 5 has also been amended to criminalize mutation of cows in such a manner, that it causes danger to the cows' lives. The same is punishable with minimum one-year rigorous imprisonment, which may extend up to seven years. The provision also stipulates payment of fine of Rs 1 lakh, extendable up to Rs 3 lakh.
The Ordinance further fixes liability on the driver and owner of the vehicle that is used to transport beef. It provides that if beef is found in a vehicle or it is discovered that cows are being transported illegally, the driver and the owner of the vehicle shall be charged for cow slaughter, unless they prove that they had no knowledge of the same.
Moreover, the expenditure incurred on maintenance of the seized cows will be recovered from the owner of the vehicle for a period of one year.
As per the Government, the amendments were necessary to make the principal Legislation more robust and to uphold the public sentiment in an agriculture-dominated state.
Significantly, as per 9 of the Principal Act, offences prescribed under Section 3 and 5 of the Act are cognizable and non-bailable.